During our extended stay in the East Hollandes, we witnessed changes happening on the popular island known to cruisers as BBQ Island, now renamed by the Kuna residents as Turtles Island.  The new name seems appropriate, given that there was a turtle nesting on the beach with two clutches buried and waiting until the full moon to hatch.  The island is also home to the bones of a whale that was found after it washed up over the reef.  We came across the whale head on another island during a beach walk.

The matriarch and proprietress of this island, Ms. Hawkins, arrived from her current home in the USA.  As one of the first Kunas we have met speaking fluent English, she explained to us how her grandfather started farming this island with 10 coconuts.  She was wonderfully open and welcoming to us.  She explained how she is now trying to gear this island towards camping touristas to make some money with plans underway for a new baño & future restaurante.  This coincides with our recent observations of Panamanians flocking to Kuna Yala on national holidays.  

The huge downside is that they are now charging a $2 beach landing fee here that will surely drive cruisers away.  We pay a monthly visitation fee of $20 in the San Blas that the Kuna militia come boat-to-boat to collect on occasion.   Each village also charges a $10 anchor and landing fee managed by their local saila (chief).  Lately, this beach landing fee seems to be cropping up on quite a few uninhabited or sparsely inhabited islands recently.  On BBQ Island, the yoga group was grandfathered in for our morning exercise, in exchange for re-charging cellphones and fresh water on a regular basis.

© M&M 2019